Tour of Rapid City Municipal Recycling Facility


On Tuesday, December 3, 2002, Jim Taulman’s General Biology class went to the Rapid City Municipal Recycling Facility to learn about the operation.  Mike Oyler, director of the center kindly led us throughout the plant and explained each process in detail.


Attending the presentation were Bobbie Jo Archambault, Latonia Black Feather, Penny Davis, Kyanne Dillabaugh and her daughter Rhyley and son Cody, Christy Hawk, Adam Heriba, Michelle Kutzke, Hazen LaMere, Darrel Twiss, and Sheronne White.



The city picks up recyclable materials on a weekly residential route in Rapid City.  Some parts of the city and outlying areas are served by private trash haulers and do not have a recycling truck pickup.  Someone living in an area without residential recycling pickup should save recyclable materials and bring them to the Recycling Facility off highway 79.  Entering the landfill gate and passing over the scales, a blue recycle dumpster sits on the right into which cardboard, tin and aluminum cans, plastic containers, and glass may be deposited.  Newspapers and magazines can be deposited in the marked bins on Fairmont west of highway 79.



Items currently recycled by the facility include plastic containers, steel and tin and aluminum cans, corrugated cardboard, and all colors of glass. 



Containers do not need to be washed out first.  Even empty plastic motor oil containers can be processed.


You may also bring in surplus paint, batteries, even car parts to drop off.  The Recycling Facility collects these materials and distributes them to the appropriate company specializing in recycling that type of material.




Of the 300 tons of trash coming into the landfill each day, about 10 ˝ tons of that are recyclable material.  The recyclable items are brought into the Recycle Facility and are scooped up by a front end loader and dropped onto a conveyer belt that carries materials through the facility where 9 workers will sort them at various stations along the line.



First, non recyclable items such as plastic bags and paper are removed by hand.  Plastic shopping bags are recyclable but should be collected by individuals and taken back to a store that recycles them, such as Wal-Mart.



Next, a large rotating magnet sweeps above the conveyer belt and removes iron-containing metallic cans.  Then a shaker drops broken glass through a grate to go onto another conveyer and to a crusher that produces finely ground glass particles.


The next step is a lateral blower that blows lightweight plastic containers onto another conveyer belt where it is hand sorted by another crew of workers into particular grades for different final uses.


Finally, aluminum cans are collected off the end of the belt and compacted and baled.




The photo above shows the entire recycling operation diagrammed on a large board in the control room.


Products made from recycled materials include:


            Glass is ground up and used as concrete filler, road paving, and for sand blasting


Cans are melted down to produce more tin, steel, and aluminum cans and other products, saving the environmental degradation of mineral mining, the energy required in the process of refining metals from rock ores, and saving the waste of dumping metal products in landfills or onto the landscape.



Plastic is compressed and baled, eventually formed into a variety of products including plastic “wood” construction materials, new containers, furniture components, plastic pipe, carpet, and paving materials.                    




Cardboard and newsprint are reprocessed to produce other paper and shredded for compost                       




A new facility is currently under construction that will take household garbage now being placed into the landfill and process it into a rich, fertile compost for sale to home centers and other outlets serving farming and gardening needs of consumers. 


Organic matter and bacteria will be added to the waste from the local sewage treatment facility.  To that material, water will be added with mixing and aeration.  Over a 29 day period, bacteria will convert the waste matter into a rich sanitary compost soil suitable for gardening uses.  This operation will substantially reduce the quantity of materials going into the landfill and will greatly extend its useful life, in addition to providing an important source of revenue to the Recycling Facility and a wonderful supply of compost to consumers.  This new operation will come on line in Spring 2003.


Another new, and more equitable, business plan to be implemented in 2003 includes providing Rapid City residents with a free recycling bin and charging for trash pickup by volume.  Those producing the most waste will pay the highest fees for having that trash removed.  In this way consumers will pay for the service they use and will be encouraged to reduce their input to the waste stream.


We were all very impressed with the Rapid City Recycling Facility and are enthused about recycling more in our own homes and communities.  Mike emphasized that almost anything can be recycled and the goal of the facility is to reduce the material going to the landfill to a very small percentage of what is collected.  Of course, we as consumers can also help reducing our consumption and trash that we produce and by reusing items instead of throwing them out.